Photographer Nina Leen holding shutter release, standing beside her Rolleiflex, which is set up on tripod. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Photographer Nina Leen holding shutter release, standing beside her Rolleiflex, which is set up on tripod. (Photo by Time Life Pictures/Pix Inc./The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

As a European and an experienced photographer of animals, Nina Leen (c. 1914-1995) had a sensibility that prompted her to study Americans the way a biologist would an exotic species. “It was typical for Americans not to see what [the American look] was,” she said. “To them it was usual—Isn’t everybody like that? For me, America wasn’t usual.” Her many subjects ranged from the latest fashions to Ozark clans, even as she continued to study animals, including snakes and bats. “I wanted to show bats in pictures because words would just fly off into the air,” she said. “People wouldn’t believe it and could not imagine them.” After seeing pictures of an orphaned puppy on a road next to her slain mother, Leen adopted the spaniel-like mutt. She called her Lucky, and nurtured her to health and fame. An inspiration to stage-mother dog owners everywhere, Leen featured Lucky in LIFE, on TV, in a movie and in the book Lucky, the Famous Foundling.

Adapted from The Great LIFE Photographers

5 models wearing fashionable dress suits at a race track betting window, at Roosevelt Raceway. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

5 models wearing fashionable dress suits at a race track betting window, at Roosevelt Raceway. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Portrait of a group of American abstract artists, collectively know as 'The Irascibles.' (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Portrait of a group of American abstract artists, collectively know as ‘The Irascibles.’ (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Little boys outside circus tent playing with a dog. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Little boys outside circus tent playing with a dog. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Models lying on beach to display bathing suits. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

Models lying on beach to display bathing suits. (Photo by Nina Leen/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation)

More Like This

A camel caravan in front of the pyramids of Khefren and Cheops, also called the Great Pyramid. (Photo by Eliot Elisofon/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Eliot Elisofon

American destroyer USS Vesole escorting the Russian freighter Polzunov into international waters. The freighter is loaded with nuclear missiles and related equipment bound for the Soviet Union after being removed from Cuban soil, bringing an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Photo by Carl Mydans/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Carl Mydans

President Harry S. Truman waving his hat as he holds up a king salmon while fishing with others on Puget Sound. (Photo by George Skadding/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

George Skadding

Gutted trolley car amid Hiroshima ruins a few months after the dropping of the atomic bomb by the US, bringing a swift Japanese surrender and an end to WWII. (Photo by Bernard Hoffman/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Bernard Hoffman

African-American student Virginius B. Thornton receiving tolerance training before picketing. (Photo by Howard Sochurek/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Howard Sochurek

Students Steve Poster and Jessalyn Gray (fore C) talking at side of taxi while crowd of White Supremacists taunt them. (Photo by Joe Scherschel/The LIFE Picture Collection © Meredith Corporation) Photographer

Joe Scherschel